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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 2

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentMahan's Commentary

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Verses 1-8

Faith not in wisdom of men But in the power of God

1 Corinthians 2:1-8

Paul, in this chapter, continues to teach that the gospel does not need the wisdom of men. It is far above the wisdom of men, it is made known to men only by the Spirit of God and it can only be known and discerned by spiritual men (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).

1 Corinthians 2:1 . 'When I came to Corinth to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ' (the gospel, which is called 'the testimony of God' because it bears a testimony to his love, grace and mercy in giving his beloved Son to be our Saviour and Redeemer), 'I did not preach this message in lofty words of eloquence, or human philosophy, or man's wisdom' (Acts 18:5).

1 Corinthians 2:2 . Though Paul was well educated in Jewish learning, had a good knowledge of Greek literature and was capable of conversing with almost anyone on current thoughts and issues, he was resolved to make nothing, the subject of his ministry and message ‘save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.’ That which was the greatest offence to others was the most delightful to him because salvation comes only through and by the obedience and death of Christ (Galatians 6:14; Galatians 2:20-21).

1 Corinthians 2:3 . By ‘weakness’ Paul may mean his bodily presence (2 Corinthians 10:10; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9) or his humble and lowly existence among them, for he worked with his hands to minister to his necessities (Acts 18:3), not exerting his office nor authority as an apostle of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:5-9; 1 Corinthians 9:1-14). By ‘fear and trembling’ I doubt that the apostle meant that he was afraid of what men would do to him, though I am sure he was concerned about the violence and persecution that threatened his life (Acts 18:9-11). It may be that he refers to the greatness and awfulness of the ministry in which he was engaged. He was deeply concerned that he preach the truth of God and that men receive the truth (Romans 9:1-3; Romans 10:1).

1 Corinthians 2:4 . As Paul determined, so he acted! His subject matter was not nature, arts, sciences, philosophy, nor dry morality, but salvation from sin through the crucified Christ. So his style of preaching, his language and his messages were delivered, not in human logic, wisdom and persuasion, but in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit (John 6:44-45). It is not by human wisdom, wit, or will that the gospel is believed and received, but by the regeneration and revelation of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3; John 3:5; John 1:12-13; Matthew 16:15-17).

1 Corinthians 2:5 . This is the key statement - the conclusion of the whole matter. Paul knew that conviction of sin, a revelation of Christ crucified, risen and enthroned, saving faith in Christ alone (apart from merit or works) and a living, vital union with Christ are heart works performed in individuals by the power of God. When this work is accomplished by his spirit and by his power, the confidence and assurance of the believer are not in the preacher, nor in his persuasion, nor in his personality, but in Christ alone (Philippians 3:3).

1 Corinthians 2:6-7 . ‘But lest you think that the gospel of Christ is unworthy of regard and notice because of the simplicity of it or the lowliness of its ministers and its followers, I declare that the gospel of the crucified Redeemer is the highest wisdom a man can imagine. It is the very wisdom of God, and those who are mature in faith recognize it as such.’ This gospel is not the philosophy, plan and wisdom of this world, nor of the leaders and rulers of this world (which wisdom is foolishness and will mean nothing); but it is the setting forth of the eternal wisdom, grace and mercy of God, which was given us in Christ before the world began. This redemptive plan was hidden in promises, prophecies and types, but is now revealed in Christ (Hebrews 1:1-5).

1 Corinthians 2:8 . None of this world's rulers, religious leaders, nor philosophers saw the wisdom of God in Christ, or they would never have crucified the Lord of glory. There is no neutral state regarding the person and work of Christ. It is either foolishness, or it is the wisdom and power of God! (1 Corinthians 1:18; Matthew 12:30.)

Verses 9-16

Spiritual discernment

1 Corinthians 2:9-16

1 Corinthians 2:9 . This is a quotation from Isaiah 64:4 to prove that the gospel of Christ is mysterious and hidden wisdom, unknown to the wise and prudent of this world. This is not speaking of the happiness of heaven, but of the blessings and benefits of Christ, as the context shows. Though God's mercy to sinners in Christ is to be seen, read in scripture and heard by preaching, the eye, ear and heart of natural man can neither see, hear, nor understand it (John 3:3; Matthew 13:13-16). The gospel must be revealed (1 John 5:20).

1 Corinthians 2:10 . Since the gospel is unknown to natural men (it is beyond the understanding of the wisest of them), how can any be acquainted with these spiritual mysteries? The answer is here in this verse. God has made a revelation of his purpose to save, of the person and work of Christ, and of how he can be just and Justifier by his spirit (John 16:8-15). Our Quickener, Teacher and Comforter, the Holy Spirit, has a complete and perfect knowledge of everything that is, or belongs to, the gospel of Christ (Ephesians 3:8-11).

1 Corinthians 2:11 . ‘What person knows and understands what passes through a man's thoughts except the man's own spirit within him?’ A man's designs, purposes and intentions can never be known by another man unless the man's own spirit reveals them. Even so, the eternal purpose of God, the hidden wisdom of God and the mysteries of his love in Christ are known by no man. But the Spirit of God knows the thoughts of his heart, his purposes, will, ways and decrees.

1 Corinthians 2:12 . ‘We have not received the carnal spirit which belongs to this world (that is, the carnal wisdom, philosophy and thoughts of natural men, which lie in the wisdom of worldly things and follow them for worldly advantage); but we have been given by God, and have received, the Holy Spirit of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:19-21). He is the Spirit of truth, of illumination, of adoption and of comfort, and he is the seal and earnest of future glory. ‘God has given us his spirit of truth that we may know, understand and appreciate the gifts of his divine favour and blessings so freely given to us by God in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 1:16-20; 1 John 1:1-4; Matthew 16:15-17).

1 Corinthians 2:13 . ‘And we are setting forth these truths in our preaching, not in words learned in the schools of philosophers or with the logic taught and understood by natural men, but we preach and teach the gospel in the language of the scripture written by the Spirit of God.’ We interpret spiritual truth in spiritual language to spiritual people. The best interpreter of scripture is scripture (2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). We compare the New Testament with the Old Testament, and their truth and harmony are seen (Luke 24:44-46; Acts 10:43).

1 Corinthians 2:14 . The natural, unregenerate man (whether in the world or in the church) will not receive, understand, nor believe in his heart these truths of God and the revelation of the Spirit of God. The gospel of grace, of a crucified Redeemer, is sheer nonsense to him. He is incapable of understanding these mysteries of God because they are understood in a spiritual manner, by spiritual light and by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. As there must be natural faculties to understand natural things, so there must be spiritual faculties to understand spiritual truth.

1 Corinthians 2:15 . ‘He that is spiritual includes every person who is born of the Spirit of God, breathes after spiritual things and has a saving interest in Christ. He discerns, not all things natural or all things spiritual (there are many things he does not know), but all things necessary to faith and salvation. These truths of sin, sovereignty, substitution and satisfaction in Christ are plain to him. The spiritual man himself is not understood by natural men. They do not know who he is, what he is, or why he believes as he does’ (John 15:17-21).

1 Corinthians 2:16 . ‘Who has known the deep counsels of God? Who knows the purpose of salvation in Christ? Who knows the hidden mysteries in the types and shadows of the Old Testament that he may instruct this spiritual man? It is certainly not the philosophers or the wise men of this world. But we apostles are abundantly qualified to instruct him, for we have the mind of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:11-15).

Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hms/1-corinthians-2.html. 2013.
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